Saturday, 23 May 2009

Movie Review - X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine had been keenly awaited but to be honest, after finding X-Men 3: The Last Stand completely fail to keep up the standards set by the first two X-Men films, I wasn't expecting too much of it. As it was, I found the film largely enjoyable but certainly not brilliant; a little better than X-Men 3, which I felt was just about watchable.

It centres of course around James Logan / Wolverine, with Hugh Jackman reprising his role from the earlier films. To be honest without Jackman I doubt if this would have happened at all, and many female fans will probably have been happy just to look at him without thinking about the storyline much (especially as he appears naked a couple of times). Wolverine has always been one of the most popular X-Men characters and his story is explored in quite some depth here. We start off quite a long time ago, with James finding out who his real father is in rather extreme circumstances, adn also finding out that he does in fact have a brother, Victor (Liev Schreiber). In the scenes playing before and alongside the opening credits we see them make a pact to always look out for one another, and then see them in action in various wars - the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam (I think). During these both brothers get shot but by the next conflict are completely recovered thanks to their powers of rejuvenation caused by their mutation.

During these scenes it becomes clear that while James is very good at violence, he doesn't actually seek it; however Victor seems to revel in causing as much death and destruction as possible. After an incident which sees the brothers fighting their own side, they are sentences to death by firing squad - of course they don't stay dead for very long. Enter Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) and his plans for "Project X" - ostensibly a weapons programme for the protection of the country, but he has his own agenda. Wolverine and his brother join up, but things aren't going to go well between the brothers with one of them eager to enjoy the carnage of each mission to the full, the other beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable about what they're going...

There's more to the plot - a love interest (Kayla Silverfox, played by Lynn Collins - apparently Michelle Monaghan turned down the role, which is strange because for most of the film I thought it was her!) who turns out to be a bit more than she appears, a whole slew of other mutants, and an overall scheme by Stryker to do nasty things to mutants as a whole. It's actually pretty well constructed, tying up plot elements to make sense with the later movies well and with some actually quite good character development. There are a few places where the film's internal logic brakes down or it becomes too predictable, but overall it's more good than bad. Fans of the Marvel comics will be happy to see some mutants that haven't made it into the X-Men films so far, such as Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), The Blob (Kevin Durand) and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). I didn't know the characters previously as I've never really seen the comics, but Gambit was a good character and The Blob added some comedy value, so they were generally good additions to the film.

As you would expect there are a lot of fight scenes and explosions; as I had expected this movie tends to focus on these too much (for my liking anyway). The result is often a good spectacle but not great movie-making. There are some lighter moments, and to me the film is much better when it mixes a bit of humour in with the action. While the plot is quite good it's difficult to care much about the characters (the nicest characters in the entire film are killed off within minutes of us meeting them, other than that it's difficult to feel too much sympathy for any of them, even Wolverine) and the film tries to create a level of intensity that we just don't feel watching it. The 107 minute runtime of the film felt a little too long really, and as others have mentioned the pacing is off at times.

The acting was mostly good - Hugh Jackman could probably play Wolverine in his sleep by now, Liev Schreiber was creepily believable as Sabretooth, and Danny Huston puts in an excellent performance as Stryker. The special effects were sometimes excellent, sometimes very obvious CGI (just why can no-one produce a realistic CIG images of aeroplanes in flight?!? I've yet to see that in any film). Mostly stuff got blown up, which is the bread and butter of special effects departments, so overall it looked good.

For X-men fans and action junkies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is definitely worth watching once. It will be interesting to see where Marvel go next with the Origins idea... a story revolving around Xavier (who makes a cameo appearance at the end of this film) and Magneto seems probable. It will also be interesting to see whether they do a tie-in with The Avengers at some stage - I can see some sparks flying between Wolverine and Iron Man if they do. (Or the Hulk and... well, anyone really.) This doesn't begin to compare to the first two X-Men films though, so don't watch this expecting something as good.

Rated 12A (UK), PG-13 (USA) for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.
Directed by Gavin Hood (whose last film as a director was Rendition in 2007).

Related links

X2: Mutants United
X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Also starring Hugh Jackman: Baz Luhrmann's Australia

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog

1 comment:

Rhys Dowd said...

I've also reviewed this movie so if you or anyone wants to take a look heres the link